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Hark! The Herald Angels Sing
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” first appeared in the collection Hymns and Sacred Poems in 1739. As it is known in the modern era, it features lyrical contributions from Charles Wesley and George Whitefield, two of the founding ministers of Methodism, with music adapted from "Vaterland, in deinen Gauen" by Felix Mendelssohn.
The original hymn text was written as a "Hymn for Christmas-Day" by Charles Wesley, included in the 1739 John Wesley collection Hymns and Sacred Poems. Wesley's original hymn began with the opening line "Hark how all the Welkin rings". This was changed to the familiar "Hark! the Herald Angels sing" by George Whitefield in his 1754 Collection of hymns for social worship. A second change was made in the 1782 publication of the Tate and Brady New Version of the Psalms of David. In this work, Whitefield's adaptation of Wesley's hymn appears, with the repetition of the opening line "Hark! the Herald Angels sing/ Glory to the newborn king" at the end of each stanza, as it is commonly sung today.
In 1855, British musician William H. Cummings adapted Felix Mendelssohn's secular music from Festgesang to fit the lyrics of "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" written by Charles Wesley. Cummings (1831 1915) was an English musician, tenor and organist at Waltham Abbey. In 1847, as a teenager, he was one of the choristers when Felix Mendelssohn conducted the first London performance of his Elijah at Exeter Hall.
Wesley envisioned the song being sung to the same tune as his Easter song "Christ the Lord Is Risen Today" and in some hymnals that tune is included for "Hark! The Herald Angels Sing" along with the more popular Mendelssohn-Cummings tune.